Misunderstanding Peter Elmsley (Eur. Medea 151–154)

A brilliant classicist and an editor of Greek tragedians on an altogether firmer footing of firsthand acquaintance with the manuscripts, Peter Elmsley (1774–1825) left quite a few conjectures of his own discreetly placed in the margin. While often palmary and deserving to be promoted into the text, ἀπλάτου in Eur. Medea 151 in the meaning ‘longing for the forsaken marital bed’ Elmsely imparted to it, sits ill in the broader context and, although accepted by the majority of editors has, in the course of its life, shifted in the direction of ‘unapproachable’, ‘monstrous’, to mean ‘the bed of death we should not approach’. Often unequivocal when referring to wild beasts of Heracles’ labours, in subtler contexts, like the one under discussion, it is often believed to be confounded with ἄπληστος often transmitted by part of the ms. tradition. In the case of Medea 151, however, the change is unnecessary, since ἄπληστος of LP can not only offer the meaning ‘insatiable’ referring to ‘marital bed’, but also the fear of the ‘overweening power’ of the ‘bed of death’ which suits what is the first reaction of the Chorus to Medea’s haughty desire to be struck by a thunderbolt of Zeus.

 Kostyleva. Misunderstanding Peter Elmsley (Eur. Medea 151–154)